Secretary Antony J. Blinken Opening Remarks Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations On the President’s FY24 Budget Request

Secretary Antony J. Blinken Opening Remarks Before the Senate Committee on Appropriations On the President’s FY24 Budget Request

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Chair Murray, Vice Chair Collins, State and Foreign Ops Chair Coons, Ranking Member Graham, distinguished members of the Appropriations Committee, thank you for this opportunity to testify before you today.  Thank you for bringing us all together.

I’m very pleased as well to be here with Secretary Austin, Secretary Raimondo.  This administration is committed to leading a bipartisan, whole-of-government China strategy that advances U.S. interests and values and delivers for the American people.

And to your point, Chair Murray, I think we do stand at an inflection point.  The post-Cold War era is over.  There is an intense competition underway to shape what comes next.

China represents the most consequential geopolitical challenge that we face today: a country with the intent and, increasingly, the capability to challenge our vision for a free, open, secure, and prosperous international order.

We cannot dictate Beijing’s path.  We cannot wait for China to change its trajectory.  But we can put ourselves in a position of strength to compete intensely to shape the broader strategic environment around China and to advance our vision.

We do not seek conflict with China or a new Cold War.  We’re not trying to contain China.  And in fact, the United States continues to have a comprehensive trade and investment relationship with China, as do most of our allies and partners.  We are, however, resolutely for de-risking and diversifying, not decoupling.  That means investing in our own capacities and in a secure, resilient supply chain, pushing for a level playing field for our workers and companies, defending against harmful trade practices, and ensuring that the United States and allied technology is not used against us.

We’re also committed to working with allies and partners to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific – one that is at peace and grounded in respect for a rules-based international order.

When we talk about “free and open,” what we mean is this:  We mean countries being free to choose their own path and their own partners, and that problems will be dealt with openly, not coercively.  Rules will be reached transparently and applied fairly.  Goods, ideas, and people will flow lawfully and freely across the land, the seas, the skies, and cyberspace.

The world is watching how we – and Beijing – manage this relationship.  And it’s in our best strategic interest to do so responsibly, in a way that promotes security and prosperity and delivers solutions on shared challenges that matter to the American people and to people around the world.

Last year, I had an opportunity to set out the administration’s comprehensive PRC strategy to “invest, align, and compete.”

We have made historic investments here at home – including the bipartisan infrastructure law, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act – to strengthen our ability to compete.

We’ve aligned our approach with key partners in Europe and Asia and beyond, working methodically to elevate our engagement around the world – and as a result, we have achieved greater convergence on how to deal with the challenges that China poses than ever before.

As we compete, we will work to maintain open lines of communication at all levels with the PRC to avoid miscalculation, to prevent competition from veering into conflict.  Senior-level engagements over the past few weeks demonstrate that commitment.

We will purposefully engage China, not as a favor, or with engagement as an end in and of itself, but in ways that reflect our values and where we can find areas of cooperation that are in our mutual interest. That’s what the world expects of responsible powers.

So we’ll push for progress on priorities like the climate crisis, macroeconomic stability, public health.  We’ll continue to press the need to curb the flow of precursors that exacerbate fentanyl and synthetic opioids and the crisis that they pose.  And I very much appreciate the leadership of this committee on this most urgent challenge for the United States.

We’ve heard from members in both parties, on both sides of the Hill, that this unprecedented challenge requires an ambitious resource strategy.  We very much agree.  That’s what the President’s proposed FY2024 State Department budget aims to do: to give us the resources and the agility to advance our strategy.

This budget positions the United States to up our game in the Indo-Pacific: the frontline of our competition with China.  The Indo-Pacific is the most dynamic and fastest-growing region in the world – 50 percent of the world’s population, 60 percent of global GDP, eight of the top 15 U.S. export markets.  It supports 3 million jobs here in the United States, provides about $900 billion in foreign direct investment to our country, and it’s driven about 75 percent of global economic growth over the last five years.  China, as it happens, invests a full 50 percent of its assistance and economic and diplomatic resources in the Indo-Pacific.

Our budget proposal will allow us to further deepen our diplomatic footprint in the Indo-Pacific – from new missions in the Pacific Islands, to a surge of new positions in the region and beyond, including in the areas of greatest contestation with Beijing like technology, economics, and regional and international organizations.

Beijing understands that diplomacy is a critical tool.  It’s why it’s invested heavily in building up its own diplomatic capacity, its own diplomatic reach, and in fact it’s increased its diplomatic budget last year at a faster rate than its military one.  And today, it has more diplomatic posts around the world than the United States.  If we’re serious about this competition, we have to demonstrate the same diplomatic seriousness of purpose across the board.

Now, we’re not demanding that other countries “choose” between us and China – but rather, we aim to offer a more attractive choice.  If we can spark a race to the top, so much the better.  That would be to everyone’s benefit.  Our budget sets us up to work with likeminded partners to strengthen our offer, and ensure it’s relevant and responsive to the needs and aspirations of people around the world.

That’s why the budget includes $2 billion in new investments in high-quality, sustainable infrastructure, rather than low-quality, opaque, extractive projects that leave countries mired in debt.

It would invest $2 billion to bolster Indo-Pacific economies and help the United States compete in areas where the PRC currently dominates and in key priorities for the region, including maritime security, disease surveillance, clean energy, digital technology, underseas communications cables, critical mineral mining.

And it contains over $7 billion to extend our economic engagement with the Freely Associated States via the Compacts of Free Association.  That’s a critical component of our Indo-Pacific and National Security Strategy.

Altogether, these funding streams ensure that we can meet a generational challenge and demonstrate our long-term commitment on issues that matter most to key countries in the region – so that the United States remains the partner of choice.

During this decisive decade, our efforts and investments – together with our partners – will determine whether we succeed in advancing our shared affirmative vision for the international system, or whether the PRC can erode or replace the global rules and norms that guarantee peace, security, and stability in the world.

I’m grateful for this committee’s partnership to sustain the resources and policies required by this challenge and very much look forward to taking your questions.  Thank you.

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